long time gone

I met Megan and Steven while living in Europe. At the time, they were not “Megan and Steven” but just Megan, and just Steven. Megan and I hit it off. I don’t remember my very first impression of Steven, but I do remember that (for some reason unbeknown to me…and quite out of character) I loved trying to get his goat. Weird.
Anyway, eight years later, Megan and Steven have been “Megan and Steven” for quite some time and they have the sweetest little girls in the world. These are the people I stayed with in Nashville, and regardless of how things had gone at V (thankfully, they went well), the trip would have been worth it just to see them. It had been about four years since I last saw them. They were still living in Utah, with their babies (the girls are twins), figuring out what to do with their lives. Funny how things change, but don’t.
I hope you are all lucky enough to have such wonderful friends. I was the slightest bit apprehensive about inviting myself to stay with them (but not enough to not do it), but Megan was so gracious that I knew I’d be welcome…and welcome I was. From my late arrival Friday night, to my need to attend Weight Watchers Saturday morning, braving the freezing cold so I could see Nashville, homemade pasta, a super-late-night conversation Saturday night (poor Megan couldn’t stay awake), Aebelskiver on Sunday (they make good on their blog promises), the ride to my school visit and back to the airport, I could not have asked for nicer hosts. Add to that the fact that I absolutely love these people, and I was in heaven. I could talk to either of them for hours (and I did)…and I adore their little girls. They are such great parents, because truly no child is on good behavior for three days straight.
And even after a number of years of semi-sporadic contact, our relationship picked up right where it had left off (only maybe a bit better since Megan and I joined the world of blogging). In any case, this weekend was exactly what I needed. It gave me some much needed and appreciated perspective on life. And it gave me time to fall in love with Nashville…even if it was freezing.

a reunion of friends and memories…

This Friday night was my mission reunion. When you go on an LDS mission, there are reunions held semi-annually for the first few years after your mission president gets back. Well, it’s been more than a few years, in fact it’s been seven since I got home and 10 years since my mission president and his wife first arrived in Geneva to take over the mission for three years (that’s how long mission presidents serve).

Megen, Trina, me, Mandy and Mandy’s cute baby. Megen was the first sister I met after arriving in Switzerland. We went out in Geneva to talk to people on the street. And now, almost eight years later, here we are.

It was so fun. Obviously, not everyone is able to come out to Salt Lake for a reunion, but there were quite a few people there. It was fun to see people I hadn’t seen in years and to see how their families had grown. One of my favorite Elders (that’s what we call the male missionaries) was there and I was excited to meet his wife, who also served in the Geneva Switzerland mission, but after my time. It was fun to meet the spouses of the missionaries I knew and to see how well they all married…their spouses are fabulous. And I’m sure my opinion isn’t biased by the fact that a few of them said such nice things about me. I love unexpected compliments from people I don’t know well. Wait; are those the only people who give me compliments? Hmmm, what does that say about me?

One of my favorite things was just sharing the fun stories from the mission, as well as hearing about how people in the mission are doing. I definitely want to be better about keeping in touch with people…both missionaries and my friends in Switzerland and France.

Anyway, the following are some of the pictures I took (I took a lot because I wanted to make sure that my mission president had pictures of everyone…but I won’t bore you with all of them).

Me and Lindsey Spendlove…my second companion. We were together for three months in Lyon, France. She’s absolutely fabulous!

Elder and Sister Ralph were one of the sets of senior missionaries with whom I was able to serve. They kept all of our apartments and furniture in happy, working order.

That is my mission president, Rex Allen, talking to a couple of people from the mission. I don’t know either of them as they served before I did.

And this is Sister Allen (with Michelle and Mandy). She is absolutely fantastic. She was our mom away from our real moms…and because I lost my mom a few years before my mission, it was really fun to have a mom there who worried about me as much as my own mother would have…and she still does.

The Sillitos…he served in my mission, she went to Belgium and they are just fun people. We had some great laughs, both on the mission and Friday night.

And this is Marianne and Steve Jackson with their oldest daughter. Steve kept me laughing throughout the mission. I was lucky enough to be in two different areas with him. While on the mission, he and one of his companions made this hilarious video on one of our preparation days. I laughed soooo hard when I watched it. I was telling his wife about this (she also served in the mission) and she said, “Yeah, when Steve showed that to me, I thought, ‘That is the stupidest thing I have ever seen,’ and his response was, ‘Well, Soeur Andersen thought it was funny.'” Hmmm, once again, what does that say about me?

Bobbi (Freeman) and Mark Edwards; she was my companion for two months in La Chaux-de-Fonds, Switzerland…in the dead of winter with meters of snow. I’m not sure how we managed. And the others are two of the Allen’s children, Andrew (I think) and Angela. They wer just little kids when we were out there, and now Angela is almost 21. Oh, the joys of getting older.

mission memories revisted…

The joys of packages in the MTC (Alicia kept them coming regularly for the entire two months I was there)…Can you guess which holiday this was for?

It’s seems that my life just doesn’t slow down. Thankfully, there are moments, in the chaos of it all, that slow me down a little now and then. This weekend, spending time with my sister and her husband, was one of them. The last two days, spent with my friend Patricia before dropping her off at the Missionary Training Center today was another.

Patricia flew into Salt Lake Monday evening. She looked a little shell-shocked at the airport. She left her family and friends in Phoenix (that’s how we know each other) to head on a mission in upstate New York. We spent Monday evening, and Tuesday evening, and most of today, actually, discussing the ins, outs, ups, and downs of the mission.

It brought back so many memories. I can’t believe how long ago it was and I can’t believe how fast it went by. Patricia’s excited to be a return missionary (i.e. be able to say that she went on a mission), but she’s not so sure about the 18 months between here and there. (Time out – Oh, how I wish I were Cameron Diaz with Jude Law taking my face in his hands to kiss me…I’m simultaneously watching The Holiday…two days with a missionary who can’t watch t.v. or movies makes you really value entertainment).

Back to Patricia…it was so fun to have those moments to think about my mission and share (I’m sure Patricia was so glad to get away since my mouth was running constantly) all of the little tidbits of wisdom I picked up along the way; like, to not waste her preparation days writing letters all day long, (Jude Law is so pretty and what is it with a British accent that just makes me swoon?) or to remember that she, Patricia, was the one called on a mission and not some version of what she thinks the ideal missionary should be.

I remember thinking so many times on my mission, “I wish that I could work as hard as Sister so and so” or “I wish I was as focused as Sister so and so” or “I wish I knew the scriptures like Elder so and so”, etc, etc, etc…and I could go on and on and on. It was such a great day, when I was sitting across from a wonderful woman at her kitchen table and realized, after sharing a perfectly empathetic moment, that only I could be me. I know…very profound. “Thanks for stating the obvious,” you say. We waste so much of our lives trying to be what we think we ought to be, instead of just being ourselves, the best that we know how.

I won’t weary you with all of the other wonderfully tedious reflections, but it really was a fabulous experience (the mission…and the reflecting). I have been slightly self-indulgent with the pictures to follow. I think there are about 20. They are the classic MTC and airport pics (along with some not so classic ones) from my mission. All of the reflecting and pulling out of the photo albums inspired me to share.

The classic “dork dot” picture…(New missionaries get this little orange dot on their tags so that everyone can spot them a mile away…it hasn’t changed in since my sister left on her mission 11 years ago.)

And the map picture….

Followed by the companion picture…And the picture by the sign…My district in class…Gotta love the bunk beds at age 21. I guess they went well with Soeur (“sister” in French) Padilla’s Winnie the Pooh that you can see in the background…and I wonder why we didn’t get along. Hmm…
Doing our “service” hours, cleaning the dorms…Flexing for the camera (Hermana Lafferty, a friend from before the mission who was headed to South America somewhere, and I ran 3 miles every morning…the only thing that kept me from gaining the MTC weight)…
That, and the All-Bran that kept me regular…(Yes, I realize that might be too much information for some of you. Yes, I was 21 and obviously super mature, as evidenced by posing “see-food” style for this picture. And yes, I still eat it like that, milk and All-Bran combining only in the mouth.)
The “we’re hugging without touching” pose…
And my most favorite companion ever, Soeur Olsen…aka Vicky Sattler.

I don’t know that this is classic, but we had blossoms in February. This was after we went from a threesome to two companionships. Oh, the drama…The Andersen’s at the airport(minus the oldest and his wife and, at the time, two children), acting all serious and stuff (obviously this was pre-9/11, as they are at the gate with me)… And that’s where the serious ended…

The Andersen’s plus the grandmas…

The three musketeers…can you guess who’s the oldest???Apparently, Dorothy didn’t think Justin on my back was such a good idea. Something about my back???

And the classic (so classic, it could be a scene right out of the next low-budget, Mormon movie–I’m not talking about the ones the Church produces) “hug goodbye at the gate” pose…

And off I go to SwitzerlandExcept for my layover at JFK, where I was able to spend a little (a very little) QT with Sydne (the next best thing to my mom), Ashley, and Daphne.

And then I was a real missionary…and I finally got rid of the bubble bangs, only to be replaced by a headband, extra weight and some serious frumpiness, ha ha ha.

One last thought about the MTC and missions. I love the whole drop-off experience. It’s emotionally draining and heart wrenching, but I love it. It’s so amazing to look at all of these young men and women who are willing to take two years or 18 months out of their lives, without a vacation, or even a day off during the whole thing, to go out into the world and teach people about God and pay for the whole thing, too. I mean, you can’t help but get emotional. I love it. And then to see all of the moms and dads and brothers and sister so sad to see their son or daughter or sister or brother leaving…there is so much love in that one room, it is completely overwhelming. The best kind of overwhelming there is.

So, it was a long last thought. That’s how my mind works. And with that, I’m off.

Unexpected blessings…

This week has been good (so far). I met with my bishop on Sunday and we had a good conversation about tithing. For the first time in my life, I am behind. Well, I resolved on Sunday that in a month I would be caught up. I had no idea how that was going to happen, but I made the decision and, for those of you who don’t know me, that’s all it’s ever taken for something to happen in my life (except for losing weight…and that’s a whole different story full of emotional issues that doesn’t ever need to be discussed :-).

I went to work on Monday and I got an email from a friend to whom I had loaned a large amount of money a little over a year ago. Now, I always knew that my friend would pay me back (although my mother taught me that when you loan money, if you want to never risk ruining a relationship, you have to do it under the assumption that you may not be paid back and that just has to be okay). So, in this email, my cute friend told me she had the money and that she would be sending it to me. And it was exactly the right amount of money to pay my tithing and my HOA fee…okay, not to the penny or anything, but still, I feel very blessed.

The other neat experience (I like the word neat) was going to MTC (missionary training center) today to roll play with the missionaries, allowing them to practice their French. I’ve done this once before, but it isn’t really convenient with my work schedule. Well, this week I decided that I would just give up my lunch hour (and I have overtime, so my “hour” was really about two and a half) and volunteer. It was so great! Just like the baguettes brought me back to Lyon, this experience put me right back on the mission. All of these great memories just flooded into my mind and washed over me, reminding me how much I love my beliefs and how blessed I am to know that God exists and that He loves me, personally.

So, that’s my preaching for today! Life really is good…and I’m almost ready for my accounting exam that I will take tomorrow, right before heading to Salt Lake to see Joshua Radin.